On Leadership in Parenting

Mar 30 2013

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I spent most of the week at the Oregon coast for Spring Break. You know, after losing a kid in the forest and dropping another one in the riverThat photo up there? It’s the view from our house this week. Yes. This is one of the reasons living in Oregon, despite the rain, is worth it, man. Miles and miles of this.

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We didn’t spend the whole week together. Greg and his folks took Kids 2 and 3 home after a couple of days. He needed to work, and the kids needed the security and stability of home. Traveling freaks the oldest boy out, and the younger girl likes her own bed. One of the biggest challenges of parenting a thousand children is recognizing their individual needs and accommodating them whenever possible. Kids in big families have lots of opportunities to learn to accommodate others and to be patient and to wait their turns and to do what’s best for The Collective. The Hive. The Group Mind. It’s OK; it’s good for kids to understand community and to practice selflessness and generosity. Except, of course, when they need what they need. And so three left.

Our oldest kid, the teenage girl who’s more capable and independent and confident and mature every day, spent the week in Mexico with our church building houses for people who need them. And when we watch our kids recognize their privileges and resources and choose to give their Spring Break to help build a path out of poverty? Yes. This is one of the reasons parenting, despite the sleeplessness, is worth it, man. Miles and miles of this.

So I stayed at the beach with my two littles for a few days without the internet or computer or Wii or DS or cable or Hulu or Amazon or Netflix. It was good to take a break from screens. Just kidding. We watched 3 movies on DVD and then caught The Croods at the tiny theatre in town. I cried when they learned that following the Light is risky and dangerous and terribly worth it.

And then we walked the beach and found very nice rocks

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and battled the tide, which beat us but not by much, and we ran too fast and contemplated our size, which we decided is both very big and very small.

photo 5 (14)I saw a lot of my boys’ backs, and I thought about this quote:

There go my men, and I must hasten after them for I am their leader.

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I thought, yes. This is parenting. This rush to catch up. This leadership from behind. This battle against the tide which we will certainly lose but only after a very good fight.


And you? What did you do for Spring Break? Or what will you do?


How to Pack for Vacation in 3 Easy Steps

Mar 26 2013

One of my 6-year-olds packed his own suitcase for the beach. He was very methodical, following an organized, 3-step process, and, frankly, I think we can all benefit from his tutorial.

The great thing about this packing system is it’s straightforward, efficient, and it works for any trip of any length anywhere in the world. I’m going to share it with you here because I like you, but I’m warning you now, this is patent pending, folks.

How to Pack for Vacation
by my 6-year-old

Step 1:

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Pack one (1) stuffed animal.


Step 2:

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Jump HARD to pack it all down.


Step 3:

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Shove in a big book.


And that’s it.

All you need for any vacation. Anywhere. Ever.


P.S. I might’ve added a few pairs of undies to his suitcase after the fact. And a shirt. And pajamas, pants, socks, boots, and a coat. But that’s because I’m obviously an overpacker.

P.P.S. I might have a little chat with this kid’s future partner before they go on their honeymoon. Or not. 😉

P.P.P.S. What are your two must-have items when you head out of town? I’m having a hard time picking between coffee, my book, my phone, earplugs, and a really good bra.


It’s Spring Break, aka March Madness (for Parents)

Mar 25 2013

It’s Spring Break, aka March Madness for Parents. Which has nothing to do with basketball and everything to do with how we play the parenting game.

So far, one of my kids fell in a river, and I lost another one in the forest.

Don’t worry, though. All’s well.

Sometimes, even ninjas lose their balance.

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But I dried that river kid off, and he wore my coat kilt-style in such a way as to honor our Scottish forebearers,

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with fierce pride, a whole lotta freedom and a few high leg kicks. 

And the child who was lost only felt lost to me and was never lost to himself. Which is often the way of it when we assign lostness. He knew where he was all along. He met me at the trail’s end with three of his buddies, perfectly happy to have found his own way and a little bewildered at my running and panicking and too-tight group-hugging and don’t-ever-stray-while-I’m-clothing-your-naked-brother againing. 

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Given my previous Spring Break successes, I wanted to think I had a pretty high seed headed into my March Madness for Parents bracket. Unfortunately, the river and the forest caused a surprise upset. What can I say? I played hard. The other team played harder. 

In other words, it’s Spring Break. The kids are home.


And the real March Madness has begun.


Are you on Spring Break, too? If yes, how’s your March Madness (for Parents) bracket holding up? You still in the game? Or did you already go down in a blaze of glory, like me? 😀

(And psst… if you want that Spring Break March Madness graphic, you can swipe it from the Five Kids Facebook page. Enjoy!)


How Do You Feed Your Family?

Mar 23 2013

I recently sat with Sarah and Bubba King at one of our local wine-country restaurants and, while Greg wrangled kids, homework and bedtimes all on his own, I drank local beer, ate coppa pizza from the wood-fired oven, and asked my friends some Serious Questions.

Now, those of you who’ve been reading here a while will remember Sarah and Bubba from my Run, vegetarians, RUN post titled This Little Piggy Means More Bacon for Me. It’s a good post if you like bacon. AND it included original two-word poetry by me, as well as a confession or two about our crunchy Oregon lifestyle. You can go read it first if you want some background. We’ll wait.

Sarah and Bubba are farmers. I like to think of them as my farmers. They raise pork and poultry. They source local flour and butter. And they run a Community Supported Agriculture project (CSA) where folks like me pay a subscription fee to buy a percentage of their produce. That means that when the farm does well, we get an abundance of delicious, fresh fruits and veggies. And when the farm doesn’t, we get less. It’s a risk, but it’s also the future of sustainable, community farming, and we love both the goods we receive and supporting the local food movement.

But we also feed our kids crap mac and cheese. The kind in the box with the dyes and the preservatives and the simple carbohydrates and the nutritional void. And other morally inferior foods. Like candy. And neon ice cream. And sugar cereal.

So… you know. This is life. Both/And, right? Both feeding our kids locally grown, carefully produced food and snacking on off-brand Fruit Loops straight from the jumbo bag.

That was the first of the Serious Questions I asked Sarah and Bubba. Why will you even talk to me? You know I’m feeding my kids from your farm and the discount grocery store. Don’t I offend you? Don’t you want to reach across the table and yell, STOP IT WITH THE TWIZZLERS, LADY. YOU’RE RUINING YOUR KIDS. And they said, “Nope. You’re good.” And then they said more than that, which we’ll get to, but that was the gist.

The second of the Serious Questions was about money. Oh my gosh, MONEY, you guys. Some people make some, but that person is not me or Bubba or Sarah. So we sat there talking about doing what we love and losing money and the fact that it’s all undeniably worth it. Me with the writing about laying down our guilt and giving ourselves grace and recognizing our hard work and being our true selves and loving our imperfections and laughing at the mess. And Sarah and Bubba with the farming.

So the second question I asked the Bubbas was What’s the point? Which is about money, of course, but is more about purposeWhy do you do this thing where you lose money and you work ’til you bleed? WHY? 

I invited them to answer me in writing, because I want to share their passion with you.



What’s the Point?
a guest post by Sarah King of The Collective

What’s the point?

Both sets of my grandparents have asked our friends and family members the same question.

“What exactly are Sarah and Bubba doing? Or rather, what it is that they are trying to do?”

They (like many) don’t know or understand the letter combination, CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). They don’t understand why we are toiling away, making just enough money to pay for this “hobby” of ours, as they call it. For goodness sake, you can just go to the store and buy all that stuff that you’re trying to grow and it would cost you a lot less money. You wouldn’t have to spend your days getting up early to go feed the animals (even on Sundays) and all of your spare time in the summer peering into a canning pot and listening for the ting, ting, ting of the jars that seal successfully. And what do you mean you don’t buy tomatoes? How can you have a salad in the middle of winter without tomato sliced on it? Wait. You mean, you don’t eat salad during the winter?

My grandparents, whom I admire and respect greatly, don’t understand why we choose to do these things the way they used to be done. Major grocery chains and Amazon.com didn’t exist. They spent year after year doing all the things above because if you didn’t, you didn’t eat. And then things changed. The world got bigger (or is it smaller?) and pretty soon they didn’t have to work so hard to eat and sustain themselves and their families. Soon, they discovered that they could get rid of the dairy cow because it was cheaper to go to the store and buy milk. And that instead of working on the farm all day, they could work in an industry that actually paid them in money, rather than in blisters and sunburns and food. They got things like paid time off and retirement. So why after all of their hard work to get off the farm would we want to undo everything and go back to it? Don’t we understand that it’s hard work, and long hours, and you can’t take days off, or call in sick? And you certainly won’t get rich from it, you likely won’t even make enough to ever retire.

Our simple answer is this: we don’t want to get rich, we want to live richly and a fully. And we do.

When we started “farming” it was really that we just decided that we wanted to learn more about the food that we were putting on our plates. When Bubba and I first got married, I shopped en masse. I loaded up on canned goods at bulk grocery stores — bought cases of soda at Costco — and stocked a pantry with enough prepared foods to survive an apocalyptic snow storm. I thought that’s what I was supposed to do.

But then, something changed. Bubba and I noticed that the food we were eating wasn’t making us feel very nourished, and we certainly weren’t enjoying it, or the process of making it. And we were starting to hear about this trend of people raising their own meat or growing veggies in raised beds outside of their kitchen. So we thought we’d give it a try. I mean, how hard could it be? Put some pigs on the pasture — watch them grow and then fill your freezer. It had to be less money than we were spending on pork from Costco.

So we did it. And we made mistakes. The pigs got out and made a mess of the pastures we put them in. And I didn’t like how much mud they created during the rainy season. But when we finally did the deed and when the first pork chop graced our lips, there was no turning back.

When we launched the CSA last year and so many of our community members asked us to help them eat like we do, we cried in humbleness. We were being asked to help nourish the bodies of the families around us. We were being trusted to make sure that kids went to school with real carrot sticks in their lunch boxes and that the tomatoes we gorged ourselves on during the summer weren’t picked by slaves in Florida. The apples we provided came from a gentleman named Ralph who meticulously trims his gorgeous 75 year old apple trees, but doesn’t eat to many because he has diabetes — though he is sure tickled that the kids like them so much.

I filled myself last year with berries that my husband picked and ate eggs from our chickens by the dozen, growing a baby boy in my belly that is now eating his own ration of eggs and applesauce and squash that I picked and preserved for him during the harvest last year.

We get up early to feed the animals and crouch over rows in the garden because we feel better. And the food that we produce tastes better and we take great satisfaction in preparing it because we had to work for it. We get to share all of this with our friends and community; growing, nourishing and sustaining one another, living richly and in fullness.

That is what we are trying to do.


Thanks, Sarah!

And just so we’re all on the same page, neither Sarah and Bubba nor The Collective is a sponsor or affiliate of this blog. They didn’t pay me for this post. Or give me extra bacon. I am pretty sure they’ve discounted my food or increased my family’s portion on more than one occasion, but I don’t have proof of their nefarious, underhanded generosity, so I’m not sure how to disclose it. In short (too late), I’m writing about the Bubbas because I believe in what they’re doing and I think you’ll like them, too.

And now, a community question for YOU.

How do YOU feed your family? Organic? Pesticide-free? Fresh? Fast food? Off-brand mac and cheese from the discount grocery store? All of the above? I just wonder… am I alone out here with my pendulum nutrition swings? Help me out.


Credit Where Credit is Due

Mar 22 2013

I’m trying to decide if telling you I was down with the grips is too much information, but you all keep acting like friends so this is pretty much your fault.

The problem with proving I have a brain filter, of course, is the fact that if I tell you all the things I don’t tell you, my proof disproves the point I was hoping to prove. If, on the other hand, I don’t tell you all the things I could tell you, then I get no credit for having a filter at all.

Was that confusing? I’m sorry; the grips took a lot out of me.

In other words, speaking for all the people like myself who say too much, you don’t know all the stuff we do not say and how very much Filter Credit we deserve. So next time your loose-lipped friend talks about “the grips” and not about the liquid acid’s exit plan or trajectory, thank her. Do. Just say, “Even though mentioning ‘the grips’ was way too far and I’m actively gagging right now, thanks for all the stuff you do not say. I hear there’s a lot of it and that you deserve mad props and crazy Filter Credit. Good job, you!”



So, I was sick.

With the grips.

But not too sick.

Just somewhat sick. And also tired. And a little bit I quit today. And a lot I’m pretty sure y’all can feed yourselvesAnd completely If you want a bath, figure out how to make that happen, 6-year-old Boy Child.

Then, later, I was very Why is there cracker shrapnel all over the house? And Chocolate chips in the clean laundry pile? Really? And How much water has to hit a bathroom from a Tub Tsunami to count as water damage and start over?

There was a time in my life when I’d have felt like I fell down on the mama job, leaving my kids to fend for themselves that way. Now? I’ve changed my perspective to this:

I’m teaching my kids to be independent.

And these are life skills, baby.

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Sometimes it’s all about perspective, friends. And remembering to give ourselves credit for all the stuff others never see.

Credit where credit is due, I say. For all the wild, wonky, wonderful stuff we do every day. Even when it involves quitting. And the grips.

So. What about you? What do you get credit for today? Name it here, friends, and let me tell you, Well done.


Kids Pooped in My Front Yard and I’m on a Podcast

Mar 19 2013


True story from our weekend.


Some kids pooped in my front yard.

My kids.

The End


That’s not really the end.


Some kids pooped in my front yard.

My kids.

They used toilet paper to wipe.

The End


“Hasn’t this happened before?” you ask.

Fine. Yes, it has.


The wiping is new, though. 



Greg rescued the toilet paper from the yard, I interrogated the suspects, and we found one out of a reported two poops.

No sign of the second one despite ongoing sweeps of the area.

You know what this means?

The Easter egg hunt just got real.

The End


In other news, non-poop-related, I’m thrilled to introduce you to the Dadsaster dads, Mark Staufer and Bryan Erwin, who invited me to participate in the 3rd installment of their new podcast series about dads. (Psst… their 2nd podcast included one of my favorite comedians, Frank Caliendo. One degree of separation, baby!)


Each week Dads Mark Staufer and Bryan Erwin discuss the gnarliest challenges of fatherhood in an honest and comedic way with celebrity guest dads and tips, workarounds and examples from their own family-life.

You know, there are a lot of dads who read over here, and a lot of folks without kids, too, and you’ve taught me a critical lesson over time, which is this: anytime we are honest out loud — any time we are imperfect and beautiful and messed up and ridiculous and broken and mended — we are describing the human condition. Not the mommy condition. Or the parenting condition. Just the human condition. With all it’s gory and glory mixed up together. And, yes, momming gives me lots of opportunities to be imperfect, and momming is my primary medium for art, but you all understood the bigger picture way before I did… that this is about all of us.

And that’s exactly what Mark and Bryan understand. That this is about all of us. Their show is funny first and dad-centric, and then it’s a sneak attack of smart, witty and endearing. They walk the fine line that balances awesome humor, telling the truth and treating people’s stories well. I like them. And I loved doing this show.

Big thank you to Mark and Bryan for the invitation, and I hope you all enjoy the show!

Click here for the podcast, where you’ll see options for free iTunes and mp3 downloads. They introduce me around minute 36, and I’m on around minute 39, but listen to the entire show. It’s rad.

P.S. There’s a point where I mention that God’s a jerk. No lightening bolt yet, so I think the Big Guy can take a joke, but you might want to steer clear of my house for a little bit, just to be safe.


 Toilet Roll image credit to winnond via freedigitalimages.net

Authenticity, Asshattery, Faith and Fear

Mar 18 2013

I’m writing about Jesus today on another blog. And about authenticity and asshattery. And especially about the profound lesson I learned from an atheist that changed the way I talk about who I am. 

One of the things I love best about you, the people who hang out with me here, is the fact that you accept the Both/And life. Both the silly and the sacred. Both the magic and the mess. I love that you are people of all faiths and all backgrounds. I love that you are moms and dads and people-who-don’t-have-kids and that all of you — every last one — are very human and very divine. I love that you allow me the freedom to muddle my way through this life out loud. That you give me and each other unreasonable encouragement to live the best, most beautifully imperfect lives we can.

And because you are who you are, it would have been easier for me to write this piece and leave it here on my home blog. Talking about faith can be dicey, after all. Instead, I decided to take a wild leap and risk being authentic in a different venue. To risk asking some Real Questions that I hope garner Real Responses. To risk inviting other people into our Both/And world.

Will you join me there? In sharing our stories and inviting people in?

Like Shel Silverstein said, “Come in!”

If you are a dreamer, come in.
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer . . .
If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire,
For we have some flax golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!

Come in!